Four railway officials were on Sunday suspended, including senior divisional engineer, in the aftermath of the Utkal Express derailment at Khatauli, 25 km from Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh. The latest development comes a day after the tragic mishap left at least 22 passengers dead and over 150 injured when 14 coaches of the Puri-Haridwar Kalinga Utkal Express derailed in one of the deadliest train mishaps in the recent times.
Besides, the Railway Board has also sent three officials on leave, including Northern Railway General Manager RK Kulshreshtra, Railway Board Member Engineering Aditya Mittal and Divisional Railway Manager Delhi RN Singh and transferred Chief Track Engineer of Northern Railway.
Earlier in the day, railway officials had indicated that negligence at the local level appeared to have caused the derailment of Utkal Express. Reflecting on the incident, Mohd Jamshed, Member Traffic, Railway Board, said an initial probe has found that maintenance work was being carried out on the tracks which might have caused the derailment. “Prime facie, it seems maintenance work was being carried out on the tracks…. Some maintenance work was going on, which might have caused the derailment of Utkal Express,” Jamshed said, adding a probe would reveal if any maintenance work was being carried out on the tracks without permission.
“Prima facie, the information is that there is divisional responsibility involved if work was being done without seeking permission. By this evening we will know if any of our staff was responsible for this,” he said.
Although the exact cause of the derailment is yet to be ascertained, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has directed Railway Board Chairman to fix responsibility on “prima facie evidence by the end of day”. On Sunday, Minister Suresh Prabhu has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 3.5 lakh to the families of those deceased and Rs 50,000 to the grievously injured and Rs 25,000 to those with minor injuries.
High-tech cranes and scores of workers have been deployed by the railways to clear the tracks near Khatauli. Rescue operations by the National Disaster Response Force had finished at around 3 AM.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh police said an FIR has been lodged against unknown persons in the derailment of Kalinga Utkal Express. “On August 19, 2017, at around 5.45 pm (1745), 18477 Kalinga Utkal Express, which was going from Puri to Haridwar, derailed near Khatauli railway station, and was damaged. In this regard, sub-inspector Ajay Kumar Singh, who is also the police post in-charge of GRP Khatauli has lodged an FIR at 11.30 pm (2330),” a UP police spokesperson said in a press release.
“The FIR was lodged under sections 287 (negligent conduct with respect to machinery), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 304a (causing death by negligence) and 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 151 (damage to or destruction of certain railway properties) and 153 (endangering safety of persons travelling by railway by wilful act or omission) of Railway Act against unknown persons,” he said.
With PTI inputs